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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 40: Excitement in Rome.[423 BC]
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Rumours of an unfavourable battle and the abandonment of the camp had already been brought. Most of all was the fate of the cavalry deplored, the whole community felt the loss as keenly as their families. There was general alarm throughout the City, and the consul Fabius was posting pickets before the gates when cavalry were descried in the distance. Their appearance created alarm, as it was doubtful who they were; presently they were recognised, and the fears gave place to such great joy that the City rang with shouts of congratulation at the cavalry having returned safe and victorious. People flocked into the streets out of houses which had just before been in mourning and filled with wailings for the dead; anxious mothers and wives, forgetting decorum in their joy, ran to meet the column of horsemen, each embracing her own friends and hardly able to control mind or body for joy. |
The tribunes of the plebs had appointed a day for the trial of Marcus Postumius and Titus Quinctius on the ground of their ill-success at Veii, and they thought it a favourable opportunity for reviving the public feeling against them through the odium now incurred by Sempronius.
Accordingly they convened the Assembly, and in excited tones declared that the common-wealth had been betrayed at Veii by their generals, and in consequence of their not having been called to account, the army acting against the Volscians had been betrayed by the consul, their gallant cavalry had been given over to slaughter, and the camp had been disgracefully abandoned.
Gaius Junius, one of the tribunes, ordered Tempanius to be called forward. He then addressed him as follows: Sextus Tempanius, I ask you, would you consider that the consul Gaius Sempronius commenced the action at the fitting moment, or strengthened his line with supports, or discharged any of the duties of a good consul? When the Roman legions were worsted, did you on your own authority dismount the cavalry and restore the fight? And when you and the cavalry were cut off from our main body, did the consul render any assistance or send you succour? Further, did you on the following day receive any reinforcements, or did you and the cohort force your way to the camp by your own bravery? Did you find any consul, any army in the camp, or did you find it abandoned and the wounded soldiers left to their fate? Your honour and loyalty, which have alone sustained the common-wealth in this war, require you to state these things today. Lastly, where is Gaius Sempronius? where are our legions? Were you deserted, or have you deserted the consul and the army? In a word, are we defeated, or have we been victorious?"
Event: War with the Volscians